Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apparently, it's all in the clothes.

Several months ago I purchased my first pair of bike shoes at the urging of my foot doctor. It was part of my plan to do more non-weight-bearing exercise as I continued to rehab from my stress fracture. This week I bought a pair of basic bike shorts on sale, and Reilly unearthed a flashy bike jersey he received from Papa ages ago. So off I went today, decked out and looking official, save for my mega-tupperware storage container that's mounted on my frame to haul my backpack to and from work. I played with the gears, climbed some hills, picked some blackberries, explored far corners of rural Brier and Mountlake Terrace, and reveled in the shouts of young boy as I pedaled past: "Yook! Yook! A bike wider!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Perspective is everything

When I was a young girl, I loved lying on the floor and looking up at the ceiling and imagining life up there. Though the ceiling had essentially the same shape and layout as the floor, support beams and doorways added a fascinating dimension and my world shifted like a wobbly fault-line. Despite feeling dizzy, it was empowering to walk around up there. No one hassled me, I had lots of space, and there was so much to explore.

I have new ways of shifting my perspective these days, and though I generally avoid things that make me dizzy, it still feels good to mix it up. Tomorrow I'm gonna dive deep, roll onto my back, and check out the view from the bottom of the pool. Cool.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Off the list- Hallelujah!

As the prayers of the people were read aloud during worship this morning, I drew a breath of thanksgiving when Matt's name was not mentioned. For the past 12 months, we've named my nephew Matt out loud, as one of our own serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. It struck me as odd that not hearing his name was such a blessed gift. Gratitude washed over me for his safety and well-being, and for the community of Faith that has held him up in prayer these many months.

As long as we participate in wars, we'll have a list of names to speak out loud. Listen; at Faith Lutheran Church, it sounds like this: "For members and friends deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan: Jake Behning, Brevic Harris, Joseph Kelly, Michael Kuhne, Tyler Neubert, Rollis Talalemotu, Grant Thompson, Walter." Hear them, one and all, and join me in celebrating the silence that is Matt.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"I love you so dearly, which is good, given our relationship."

Sometimes I am reminded that being married to a solitary man is challenging, even lonely much of the time. My husband loves his thinking time, his quiet time, his unstructured, uninterrupted time; his time. It's easy for me to feel sad, short-changed, even angry, when I'd like a bit of interaction, conversation or attention and it doesn't materialize, even with effort on my part. Then this.

"Thank you for this vacation. Thank you for the times I was allowed to not participate in group activities. I'm serious. That was the greatest gift."

What can I say to that? To be honest, I laughed, but in my heart of hearts, I know this is intimacy at its finest for us both.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A visitor of distinction

Josh's friend Hikaru came to visit us on Bowen Island today while on holiday in BC from his home in St. Louis. The beautiful day beckoned so they kayaked out from Bowen Bay toward Keats and Pasley Islands, swam in the cool waters off the beach, soaked in the warm, jetted pool, sauna'd, shared conversation and enjoyed a home-cooked meal, courtesy of Gramma and Papa. And talked a bit of chess, of course. Hikaru and Josh share a mutual passion for the game but found plenty of other things to talk about during their time together. You can read more about this visiting Grandmaster at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nadya at 8

Nadya Rose Philip Bremner: curious, kind, creative, early riser, stunningly beautiful, fun, keen observer, unconventional, athletic, artistic, precious, intelligent, loving, affectionate, and our youngest niece. Oh, I love her so.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A good life, this.

Today, I am grateful for the ability to discern; the capacity to feel; a receptivity to God; the privilege of relationships; the goodness and compassion that courses through us all; cold, clean, seas to refresh the body, mind and spirit; warm, late-summer sun; and our beloved dogs, the most honorable, loyal companions a girl could long for.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer dining

One of the best things about summertime eating is the cutlery-free experience. Sampling berries as you pick, licking a drippy cone of sweet gelato, or gnawing on an ear of crisp, grilled corn, finger-lickin' eating reigns supreme.

And, as always, it tastes best when shared with others.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not your average week

Schedules get tossed to the wind in summer time, and people do all sorts of things and call it vacation. Our son Josh is in LA this week at the 1st Metropolitan International Chess Tournament, competing with top players from around the world. It's a 9-round event over 5 days; think major brain work while seated for hours on end. It looks like there are 86 players registered (, including 29 foreign players, 10 grandmasters, and 50 titled players. As luck would have it, Josh faced GM Michael Adams of England in round 1 last night, who appears to be the highest rated player in the tournament.

It's mind-boggling to imagine the challenge, but there's nothing Josh loves more. Bust a rook, son!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Boys to men

As a young girl my favorite playmates were boys, mostly because they liked doing the same things I did: climb trees, dig in the dirt, ride bikes, play rough games, and seek out risky, dangerous adventures. I've always enjoyed my time alone though, and at an early age I recognized that some stuff was just more fun in private, like dissecting dead fish and removing their eyeballs to see how they were attached.

In high school, I had a dream that I would one day be the mother of two sons, and sure enough, here they are, bearded, bright as constellations in the night sky, and beautiful to boot. I love these guys and the men who bookend the family portrait: my dear father-in-law, Eddie, and my darling husband, Mika. Word has it, feisty boys; today, fine men.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Take heart; give heart

"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach."

I've found great comfort in this admonition since the first time I came across it in an issue of Heron Dance several years ago. I freely admit that there are times when I lose my footing and just weep when I witness violence against others, whether through the news or across the fence that divides my home from the family next door.

I'm learning to find new ways to offer grace and compassion where suffering reigns, but it's not easy; it's not meant to be. We are called into discernment, and I choose to be attentive to that. It helps me to think creatively when responding to events that marginalize or suppress the rights of others. Sometimes it's enough to simply take a deep breath and pray; sometimes it requires much more. And so I take the time to read the rest of this passage from Heron Dance to remind myself of our shared responsibility in helping to lighten the load.

"Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take 'everyone on Earth' to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of the soul in shadowy times like these- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it."

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, from Do Not Lose Heart

Friday, August 12, 2011

Footnotes of summer

My love affair with foot massage began as a teen in the 70s. Reilly inherited the gene and happily offers his size 11 feet to me when he's around. Mika, dear man, has no greater love, save for guava ice cream. In fact, he's been known to get horizontal, bare those tired feet, and once the massage is in full swing, moan with delight, "Lord, take me now."

Last summer, I was sporting a knee-high walking boot and hobbling about on crutches with an atypical stress fracture of the navicular. That's podiatrist-speak for "Damn, my foot hurts!" Not to be outdone by the right foot, my left foot has gotten into the narrative and added a whole new set of footnotes. I'm happy to report that the bandaged-acquired blisters are now fully healed, and the laser, ultrasound, massage, ice and Ibuprofen regimen seems to be working its magic: the nasty plantar fasciitis is beginning to abate. The pain associated with this has been unlike anything I've ever endured. It's akin to having a spike driven through the heel; no foolin'.

A final footnote of advice: love your feet, treat them well, support your arches, or feel like h*#@!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tanzanian bumper sticker, circa 2004

Walking around Green Lake today, I spotted a man shadow boxing under a canopy of trees, his hips swiveling as he rolled onto the ball of his foot to turn his trunk with jabs and punches. A fighter practices duck and cover, advance and retreat, evade and yield. Useful drills for self defense, but equally good practice in the art of living.

Forward or backward; we all get to choose.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From Afghanistan and Sweden, with love

Last August, my nephew, Lt. Matt Helbig, far left, deployed to Afghanistan with a physical and mental readiness that his family found mind-boggling. Since then, news from him in the Patika Province has been intermittent at best and always met with a stomach-churning anxiety; correspondence from a loved one leading soldiers in a war zone tends to have that effect. So imagine our surprise when news arrived that Matt had met the love of his life when a Swedish journalist, Sara Persson, was embedded in his unit to film a documentary for the BBC. Amid covert missions and firefights, something quite miraculous emerged.

In a few short days, Matt and Sara, arriving separately from different continents, will arrive on U.S. soil. It will be Sara's first trip to the U.S., where we hope and pray they'll establish a life together. Meeting them in Clarksville, Tennessee with be Matt's father, Art, my sister, Melinda, and their daughter, Cate, now 8. It's hard to imagine the anticipation and complexity of feelings that are coursing through each of them, but one thing I know to be true: love overcomes adversity; love endures; love springs eternal. And it makes babies. Sara and Matt are expecting their first child in December. How 'bout that!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A greeting of a different sort

Bowing was a common form of greeting for me for nearly 15 years as I faced a class of martial artists or prepared to spar with a training partner. In my art, taekwondo, we commonly followed the bow with a formal handshake, making eye contact depending on the rank of the other person.

It's been a few years since I rolled around on the ground in a full out grappling match, but believe me, I found big joy in that degree of contact. Last night while horizontal in yoga class, my fingers brushed against those of a fellow yogi. With eyes closed, we paused when contact was made, then she took my fingers in hers and lingered a while. I smiled with eyes still closed, savoring the spontaneity of this unconventional greeting. After class as we rolled up our mats, she approached me with open arms: "It was nice to meet you on the mat. My name is Lynne."

There are so many ways to say hello.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The fine art of living

We gathered at Ft. Ebey on beautiful Whidbey Island, nearly fifty-strong, to train for the upcoming Breast Cancer 3-Day. Walkers and crew members representing four different teams came together to walk and enjoy the fellowship found in old and new friendships. A few of us were sidelined with injuries of various kinds, but we came never-the-less and found pleasure in a multitude of things, including plant buying!

Here is 3-Day veteran, Ginny Douglas, perusing the fine selection at a Coupeville nursery, using a measure of self control with fanny pack in tow. Resourceful, resilient, refreshing and resplendent, that's our Ginny, and we love her so!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Opening the channels

conduit n. 1 a pipe or channel for liquid. 2 tube protecting wires.

I have a few trusty triggers that open the channels for me, sometimes catching me off-guard and taking my breath away. Listening to a particular piece of music can open the floodgates faster than anything, though olfactory memories are nearly as evocative. Moving meditation, found through slow, relaxed and repetitive movement, nudges the latch just so. Sometimes it's enough to simply be still, to quiet my mind and bring my body to a place of rest. Through stillness, I become the conduit itself. Feelings emerge, memories return, breath gets snagged, tears flow.

Last night I missed my friend. Today I miss him still.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The language of understanding

We take for granted that we are understood. We speak, we write, we intuit, and we use our bodies, all in an effort to communicate. Even when we think we've been clear, feedback from others informs us otherwise.

Today I listened as a young woman I love shared her perception of things as they currently stand between herself and her mother. Her words came to me through the phone, carefully chosen, and I listened to what was said and what was left unsaid. And I heard, amid the intellectual, sophisticated language, a longing for a common tongue; for mutual understanding; for that sacred place where we drink from the same deep well.

To offer, to receive. To receive, to offer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shoeless in Seattle

I spent a few days barefoot last week and paid for it mightily with some gangbuster's plantar fasciitis. When I saw my physical therapist on Friday, he ultra-sounded the foot and taped it up in an effort to cushion the heel and support the arch. A seemingly sound idea, don't you think?

A few hours later, following a short dog walk and some yard work, I removed the taught bandage to find three open, weeping blisters, including one on top of my foot that was downright angry. Back to bare feet, since donning shoes is not really an option right now.

Yesterday I had an interview with the folks at Homeland Security to finalize my Nexus application, and I showed up wearing a pair of hot-weather socks and one shoe. "Don't ask," I quipped. Tonight I'll see how the single shoe attire works at McCaw Hall. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Perception of risk

I find it entertaining, mind-boggling, really, to reflect on my life and revisit experiences. I've embraced my share of risk-taking in clear-headed moments with plenty of forethought and I've done some incredibly stupid things that lacked even a smidgeon of sound judgment. I'm certain we all have. Some of the physical acts required a measure of courage or a set of skills; some simply called for bold action on short notice. Rock climbing was one of the things I enjoyed for the way it demanded concentration and focus: be here now, or else.

Teaching young children has many parallels, and there are days when I look back and marvel at the courage required to face a classroom of fidgeting, limit-testing, over-scheduled and under-heard students, and then I remember: I was one of them once too, flailing my way through awkward social situations, trying to find my footing.

Some days, simply living feels like risk enough.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Whidbey walkers, take 3!

Sunshine dominates the weekend forecast as Ginny, Carol, and I pack our duffels for the annual Ft. Ebey Campout with our beloved 3-Day teammates. This is our 3rd year on Whidbey Island together where we'll gather with nearly 50 fellow walkers to log miles for the upcoming 3-day, 60-mile walk.

Last year, while nursing a walking-acquired stress fracture in my foot, my buddies pushed me for miles in a rented wheelchair, circumnavigating the island undaunted in a soft rain. It served as a trial run for the 3-Day, to see if pushing a wheelchair was a feasible option. We proclaimed the experiment a success and I rented a sturdier chair for the 2010 3-Day.

This year, though we're not packing a wheelchair, we're fondly referring to our digs as the medical tent, since two of us are sidelined with injuries. Ginny has a torn meniscus and a possible stress fracture, and I've got a blister the size of Texas on the top of my foot. Whatever.

The two of us don't expect to log many miles- that's Carol's task- but we share great expectations for spirited fellowship and big-time fun in a beautiful island setting. Bring on the campfire, sticky, delectable banana boats, and the haunting song of the offshore bell, resounding through the trees.